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The Case Of The General's Thumb

3.27 of 5 stars 3.27  ·  rating details  ·  317 ratings  ·  38 reviews
The corpse of a distinguished general is found attached to an advertising balloon—and minus his thumb. Police Lieutenant Viktor Slutsky is sent in to investigate. So, too, is KGB officer Nik Tsensky. They begin their investigations unbeknownst to each other, but quickly find themselves mystified about developments caused by the other.

Thus begins a comedy of very dangerous
Paperback, 192 pages
Published March 20th 2003 by Harvill Press (first published 2000)
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It took me a while to warm up to The Case Of The General's Thumb: At first, it struck me as being an earlier effort than Andrey Kurkov's two penguin novels -- Death and the Penguin and Penguin Lost -- but it looks as if it were written between the two. In The Case of the General's Thumb, there is no Mischa the Penguin, but there is a tortoise named Nina. It must be said, however, that Nina has not a hundredth the character of Mischa.

Kurkov was born in Leningrad and writes in Russian, but he appe
Thomas Hübner

"Kiev, night of 20th-21st May, 1997
Sergeant Voronko of the State Vehicle Inspectorate loved his snug little glass booth on Independence Square in the heart of Kiev, and never more than in the small hours, when Khreshchatik Street was free of traffic, and nipping out for a smoke was to experience a vibrant, blanketing silence very different from the fragile night stillness of his home village."

But on that particular late evening, things turn out to be very dif
Solid noir Russian thriller, this was enjoyable and a bit surreal but no way Bulgakov, just no way...
Ashland Mystery Oregon
First published in Russia and translated into English for a 1999 Great Britian release, Kurkov's latest work just reached the United States in 2011. It's a confusing, wide ranging romp across the landscapes of the former Soviet Republics, a spy-versus-spy comedy of confusion where no one knows who's on who's side and who's on first or last base. You really have to read this one to get a good idea of how good it really is!

The post-Soviet capitalist society is fascinating, as new power pins jockey
I wish I hadn't set this aside for a couple days when I was about halfway through the book. It took me a few chapters to get everyone straight again. I also wish my mind didn't have this annoying habit of replacing, at times, foreign names with the shorthand "foreign name," which doesn't help much when all the names are, for instance, Russian.

Overall, though, this book was excellent. The interplay of main characters operating in near ignorance and trying to solve a mystery while being directed b
John Brooke
This is a funny, fast moving, light-feeling but very dark-souled mystery built around the dangerous nexus of police and financial corruption that has defined much of the post-Soviet era in too many “eastern bloc” countries. It involves two underlings – Nik, a low-placed KGB officer; and Viktor, a Kiev homicide inspector – both hunting across Europe for some misplaced ill-gotten cash like two obedient dogs at the behest of their savvy, scary unseen masters.

The author Andrey Kurkov is a celebrated
Maja Lange
Blah. There were three things that I was mildly interested in learning along the way; three questions unenthusiastically asked in my mind. Two of these questions were never conclusively answered, and the third one (pertaining to the title and central to the plot) was answered quite undramatically, almost as a throw-away remark, leaving me with a 'meh' and a shrug. What's more, that last thing is something that someone less thick than I would have guessed the meaning of at the first mention of it ...more
Donovan Lessard
After reading 'Death and the Penguin' and 'Penguin Lost' (admittedly not as good as Death, but still entertaining), this really disappointed. I understand that this was written several years before Death and the Penguin, but is a frustrating novel. It jumps all over the place with many, many characters. Rather than moving the story along it just sort of jams too much into too short a period. The nuances of post-Soviet politics between Ukraine and Russia are humorously depicted, but no ...more
This is a solid, page-turning mystery giving the reader a fair idea of the chaos and criminal activity of post-Soviet Ukraine, but the characters are a little too thin to care too much about them, and the translator relies a little too much on English slang which is incomprehensible to an American reader.
Edwin Battistella
A Ukranian general is found murdered and missing his thumb and suspended from a advertising balloon. Ex-KGB officer Nik Tsensky and Militia Lieutenant Victor Slutsky both investigate. Neither is aware of the other and both are kept in the in the dark by their handlers and working a Kurkov’s novel is what you might expect if Elmore Leonard wrote spy novels. It filled with quirky humor, odd characters, and plot convolutions. The plot was a bit hard to follow at times, and took a fifty or so pages ...more
I picked this up after reading "Death and the Penguin" by the same author. I found the plot of this book much more confusing than "Penguin" but the entire novel was imbued with the same sense of ennui that made "Penguin" so memorable. In both books, the characters are not in control of their own lives, in a society that feels as if it is being operated via remote control. Talk about phoning it in . . . that quaint phrase takes on a dreadful seriousness in this novel, which nevertheless has enoug ...more
Scott Wilson
This is my least favorite book by Kurkov. Although I finished it, I would not recommend it. Read Milkman in the Night or The Gardener from Ochakov, both are fantastic.
Matt Mills
Got this on a recommendation from a friendly shelf at Barnes & Noble. Finished it in one go because I was enjoying it so much. It definitely did remind me of Le Carre (as the jacket told me it would ~10 times) but had just the right level of added silliness for me. Not that it was silly; it remained quite dark throughout. I liked the dual narrative that gave different perspectives on the same events.

It was a lot better written than this review, anyway.
Perhaps I'm not used to his style of writing, but I found it very disturbing to the flow of the narrative. That and the constant switching between the two main characters and their different situations made it really tough to really absorb what was going on, leaving me confused more often than not. There were a few good moments, and from what I've gathered from other reviews it seems this may have been Kurkov's least impressive work, so I'll hold judgement on him till I read "Death and a Penguin ...more
Moira Fogarty
This just didn't capture my interest; not terrible, but I think a lot of the vigor of the tale may have been lost in translation.

The introspective, resigned, joyless plot progressed with glacial slowness, despite this being a short book; it felt very Russian.

The two main characters were difficult to distinguish from one another, and I had trouble keeping track of the individual story lines and their possible intersections.

In the end, I renewed it twice from the library, missed book club, and
Renee' Davis
Enjoyed the book. Slightly different than Death and the Penguin but entertaining.
Very dark, but quite well written. A classic spy novel.
Although it was called a black comedy, the only humourous moments of note was when a tortoise was brought into the story. A typical Kurkov ploy of using an animal to detract from the carnage. The story while mainly written well, it tended to jump rather too quickly from one set of characters to the next. It won't put me off reading any Kurkov, this book seemed to be the weakest of any of his that i've read. But not one that I would be reading again any time soon.
Natasha B
Currently under construction...
Karina Westermann
I read this during the Great Summer Cold of 2012 and found myself diverted despite sneezing constantly. Excellent and quirky little book. It is more a mood-piece than a straight-forward who-dunnit - and I enjoyed the informal little structural twists. It should have been a 3 stars grade but curse GR for lack of half-stars. Elevated to 4 stars then grading on the 2012 reading list curve. ...more
Molly Took
Aug 11, 2010 Molly Took marked it as wishlist
Shelves: unowned
One or two things did seem like hard going - the struggle through the first few pages and this tendency Koontz has of going off at a lengthy tangent, sometimes at crucial moments. But these really are minor criticisms of an otherwise excellent writer. Odd Thomas' has a plot which will leave you guessing, it's a great read and it packs a solid punch. Highly recommended.
Managed to get through 48% before abandoning completely. At 48% the story should have become clear (er) to me, but I was just as unenlightened at this point as I was before starting the book. I hadn't warmed up to any of the characters (and there are lots) enough to care to see what happened to them either. I just gave up.
A cool story and generally really interesting to read, but I found the ending a bit . . . I dunno, abrupt. It also might have just been the translation, but I was confused for a lot of the time. I'm giving this so good a rating because it was, despite all this, a lot of fun to read.
Roxy Reno
I was happy to read other reviews that let me know I wasn't alone and a total stup. Because, this book did not make a lot of sense to me and I guess it isn't supposed to. I thought maybe it was just a bad translation but it sounds like it's on purpose.
A dead general, an advertising balloon, missing KGB millions, and a missing thumb. It's all here is Kurkov's deadpan, absurdist story of post-communist Ukraine that reminds just how good satire can be.
Sep 02, 2012 Greg rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: polar
Interesting story with a lot of diversions playing on the complex nature of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the corruption present within the successor states. Still, more two-and-three-quarter stars.
Laurie Roberts
Caught my eye in the library fiction display. Not normally something I would have gone for but glad I did. Easy to pick up from where you last left off on the commute to and from work.
Michelle L
If only every piece of fiction/mystery was this subtle, intricate, keeping the reader off-balance and utterly beguiled. And did I mention literate? Even in translation.
Not for people who root for the "good guys" in their crime fiction and thrillers. This is the post-Soviet (dis)Union: There are no good guys. So much the better.
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Ukrainian writer writing in Russian. He was born in small town Budogoszcz in Leningrad area. In 1983 in Kiev he graduated Kiev Pedagogical Academy of Foreign Languages. He started writing in age of six and he had a hobby of collecting cactuses - he collected nearly 1,500 of them. Ambitiously he wanted to learn their latin names. Thanks to that he had learned such languages such as English, French, ...more
More about Andrey Kurkov...
Death and the Penguin Penguin Lost A Matter Of Death And Life The President's Last Love The Milkman in the Night

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